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Living Life to the Fullest In Southwest Missouri

The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure

The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure

Just off of the louder-than-life Branson strip lies a quiet attraction nestled in the hills. There’s no lively music or jaw-dropping theatrics here; no choreographed numbers or intricate laser light shows are used to captivate your attention.

 

The stars of this attraction shine without the need for embellishments. Their mere existence is beguiling; their “costumes,” with intricately designed patterns, come in vivid colors like sapphire, crimson, and citrine, and look like floating works of art.

 

Yet they’re not wearing a stitch of clothing.

 

Because they’re butterflies.

 

These butterflies live in the aviary at The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure, an atypical Branson attraction that focuses on nature and science rather than showbiz.

 

butterfly palace building

 

On a recent trip to Branson, I was looking for something to do to entertain my youngest daughter while her sister was taking classes at a dance convention in town. Being February, we were limited to indoor activities. I also wanted to find something that we hadn’t done before on previous trips, like Titanic Museum or Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (which are both great attractions).

 

I decided on the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure, which houses more activities and attractions than just the aviary. Bonus: Your admission allows you to return anytime for three days if you wear your wristband, so there’s potential for you to really get your money’s worth if you happen to be staying in Branson for an extended time.

 

Even though my daughter and I only spent an hour and a half at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure, I think the price of admission was fair. We were able to do and see everything we wanted (sometimes multiple times) and we were both entertained.

 

Warning to parents of small children (or children of any age who crave souvenirs): The ticket counter here is located in the heart of the gift shop, which is filled with colorful butterfly-themed toys and gizmos, and your child will pass through this area both going into, and exiting from, this attraction. Steel yourselves. They will want something.

 

Emerald Forest Mirror Maze

What was the first thing that my 7-year-old daughter wanted to see at the attraction? The butterflies?

 

No! It was the mirror maze.

 

Go figure.

 

I admit that this was the first full-fledged mirror maze that I’d been in. With dim lighting and lush greenery weaving along the ceiling (which reflected in the mirrors for what seemed like miles in front of us!), this place made me feel like a fairytale character lost in an enchanted forest.

 

butterfly palace maze pose

 

By the time we reached the middle of the maze, my daughter had developed certain tricks to determine what was, and what wasn’t, a mirror.

 

I, on the other hand, was using the rudimentary test of sticking my hand out in front of me to feel for something solid. This method backfired on me at one point when I slowly reached my hand around a corner and saw what I thought was another person coming around the hall. I screamed – at my own reflection.

 

My daughter thought that was hilarious.

 

butterfly palace maze photo

 

While the hands-in-front-of-one’s-body method seemed very basic, apparently not everyone thought to use it that day. We heard a couple of thuds (followed by laughter, thankfully) when some other maze-goers ran into the mirrors themselves.

 

We went through the mirror maze three times before I convinced my daughter that we needed to move on to the next exhibit.

 

Living Rainforest Science Center

At the science exhibit we were able to see rainforest creatures up close in their habitats: poison dart frogs, geckos, chameleons, and Harry, the blue-tongued skink (who was frustratingly close-mouthed when we visited).

 

Our favorite creature in the exhibit was the axolotl, also known as the Mexican salamander.

 

butterfly palace axolotl side

 

The axolotl is unique in that it retains its larval features throughout its adult life. With its milky skin and partially developed features, it’s so ugly that it’s cute.

 

butterfly palace axolotl front

 

See? How can you not love that face?

 

Great Banyan Tree Adventure

On the upper floor of the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure is a small room with rainforest scenes painted on the walls and bungee cords attached from the ceiling to the floor which simulate the dense collection of the aerial roots that are characteristic of banyan trees. The goal is to navigate through the roots to find your way out of the rainforest.

 

butterfly palace banyan

 

Because this was another type of maze, my daughter was thrilled, and she/we ended up going through it several times.

 

Butterfly Aviary

Finally – FINALLY – we reached the exhibit which I most wanted to see: the butterfly aviary.

There are several sets of doors leading into the aviary which must be closed completely before proceeding to ensure that no butterflies escape from their tropical habitat, and there’s a section containing hanging racks in the area right before you enter the aviary. I suggest that if you’re wearing a jacket or a sweater that you remove it and hang up before entering the habitat because the temperature change is dramatic. After only a few minutes in the hot, humid air of the aviary, I’d removed my scarf and put my hair up in a ponytail.

 

When we entered the aviary, we were given a nectar tube topped with a red flower which was supposed to attract the butterflies to us.

 

None came.

 

Then we noticed that we were standing just a few feet away from a man who was wearing a bright red shirt and a red ball cap, and who was serving as a beacon to about a dozen butterflies. Our little red-flower-capped nectar tube couldn’t compete with that.

 

We moved away from the man, and focused our gaze on the artistic masterpieces of nature flitting around the room. Soon, butterflies spotted our nectar tube and landed on the flower, allowing us the gift of admiring their ethereal beauty up close. To me, the moment felt mystical.

 

butterfly palace nectar 3

 

To my daughter, not so much.

 

She recoiled when I moved the nectar tube toward her to show her a butterfly, ducked when another butterfly fluttered near her head on its way across the room, then asked “Can we leave now?” after being in the aviary for two full minutes.

 

My daughter, it seemed, was afraid of butterflies.

 

Gentle, delicate, and harmless butterflies.

 

How could it be that this little girl who baits her own hook with slimy, squirming worms when she goes fishing with her dad could be experiencing Lepidopterophobia (yes, there is an actual name for butterfly phobia!)?

 

I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

 

butterfly palace hat

 

Other children in the aviary were walking around with butterflies perched on their fingers or clinging to their clothes, and they appeared delighted. Yet my daughter flinched at any movement in the air, like a restless war veteran dodging imaginary grenades.

 

To make her feel more comfortable, I put myself in the path of any butterflies that came her way, and I also assured her that I would hold the nectar tube far away from her.

 

That bought me another 10 minutes.

 

But that was enough time to become mesmerized as I watched a variety of butterflies sip nectar from various feeding stands throughout the room.

 

butterfly garden feeding

 

I was also able to get this photo of my daughter during a butterfly-free moment.

 

butterfly palace bench

 

While I would’ve liked to have spent more time in the aviary, I didn’t want to prolong my daughter’s agony, so we left the exhibit.

 

Guess where we went then?

 

The mirror maze.

 

Because if getting lost in a dark, confusing maze brings more joy to my daughter than having a graceful butterfly land on her finger, how could I deny her that?

 

butterfly-pic

 

The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Experience is located at 4106 W. Hwy 76 in Branson. To visit its website, click here.

 

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Living Life to The Fullest!

Joplin MO LifeI love seeking out new experiences and finding places off the beaten path. I started Joplin MO Life in August 2013 as a way to share my discoveries with others in the Joplin community so that they can learn about the resources that exist right in their own backyards.

I have worked in education and event planning, and have always loved to write. I hold a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a bachelor's degree in marketing from Tulane University.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the great artistic write-up about The Butterfly Palace. You described it so very well. You have some real skill and talent for the written word and your photography is delightful. Thank you!

  2. There are so many amazing attractions in Missouri still to be discovered. This is a fantastic place to take the kids.

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